Warning over inheritance after ruling

David Barnes Napthens
David Barnes Napthens
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A solicitor is advising caution when planning to ‘disinherit’ a child from a Will following a major national court case which saw a woman claim £164,000 despite her mother’s wishes that she would not inherit.

The 10-year court case involved 70-year-old Melita Jackson who died in 2004, leaving her only adult daughter, Heather Ilott, nothing.

Instead she bequeathed her £500,000 estate to three animal charities.

In 2007 the High Court awarded Mrs Ilott £50,000 after she argued that she was entitled to reasonable financial provision from the estate of her late mother and that her mother had a ‘moral obligation’ to include her in her Will.

In 2011 the Court of Appeal ruled that sum of £50,000 was not an adequate amount, and the latest appeal ruling has seen Mrs Ilott awarded £164,000.

David Barnes, partner in the Litigation team at law firm Napthens, said the Court of Appeal decision may have increased the extent of an estate which can be claimed by an adult child, and may result in more claims.

The Court still needs to be satisfied that the deceased parent owed a moral obligation to include the child in his or her Will and also that the adult child is actually in financial need such that he or she requires financial provision from the Estate.

David explained: “This case means that testators – people preparing a Will – will need to carefully explain their reasons for children being disinherited, and why other recipients are being given a greater sum.

“It’s clear that the case does potentially limit the freedom of a testator to make a Will on their own terms, but conversely it may assist adult children who feel excluded. Adult children have for some time been able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, but each claim must still be proven on the facts (showing financial need and an obligation to the adult child), so people in this position should always seek advice.

“It’s also important to remember that a case will be dealt with on its own merits, so the scope for a claim may be limited if the child has already been given some benefit.”